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Published Date: March 5, 2012

Published Date: March 5, 2012

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Bad Fruit? Maybe it’s a Bad Tree.

“I’m inadequate.”
“I can’t seem to shake this depression.” 
“I’m utterly and completely exhausted.”

Their stories are strikingly similar. I was lying in bed one night reading Hillary McFarland’s Quivering Daughters, which artfully weaves together the stories of several women caught in a patriarchal branch of Christianity known as the Quiverfull movement. Even though it was very late at night, I couldn’t put the book down. I ached for these women. Under their patriarchal system, they could never be selfless enough, they could never submit enough, they could never be good enough. Abuse, shame, devastating guilt, and suicidal thoughts marked many of their experiences, some on a daily basis. 

Then I read stories on author Vyckie Garrison’s No Longer Quivering website, and then the research of Jon Zens in No Will of My Own. I talked to a friend whose family had adhered to the teachings of Bill Gothard. I read accounts of men and women who were part of isolated Reformed movements that insist complementarian relationships are an integral pillar of Christianity.

Their stories are strikingly similar. 

Many report living with intense remorse, wrestling with the persistent belief that God is displeased and angry with them. Some say they have had to teach themselves how to have and express opinions. Others, beaten down by the misuse of Scripture and the abuse by fellow Christians, have abandoned their faith. 

Such pain and destruction should tell us something! Just as the sensation of pain alerts us when our physical bodies are in need of treatment and healing, so too should these “symptoms”  of those living under patriarchy alert us that all may not be well in the body of Christ. Jesus said it so simply and directly: Is it bad fruit? Then it must be a bad tree (Matt. 7:15-20).

Of course, we know that many well-intentioned Christians—our brothers and sisters—believe that patriarchy is biblical and the only way men and women will produce good fruit in their families, churches, and communities. As I researched for this issue of Mutuality, I read articles insisting that God established a hierarchical order between men and women beginning in the Garden of Eden, when God told Eve that she would desire her husband and he would rule over her (Gen. 3: 16). Giving the man final authority over a woman and their children brings order to chaos, the argument goes. It also provides greater stability and efficiency. Yet, are order and efficiency really God’s great priorities? I believe the good fruit we can expect as Christians is outlined in the famous passage in Galatians 5: “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control” (v. 22-23). Producing this kind of fruit may be a slow and messy process. But it is one that results in holiness and freedom.

I am convinced that the church is not, and should not be, ruled by males. It belongs to Christ. And under Christ’s rule, the first are last and the last are first. Under Christ’s rule, all men and women are intended to experience freedom, grace, and peace. In Christ’s kingdom, both women and men are called and equipped to serve and influence the world. A church ruled by men, just because they are men, has no biblical basis. And, simply put, it produces bad fruit.

In this issue

Vyckie Garrison, highlighting her story of living under patriarchy, begins this issue of Mutuality with a perceptive look at love and respect. Then, Kelsey Seifert and Jonathan Aigner explore how they journeyed out of patriarchal beliefs, offering reflections on how to encourage others doing the same.

Next, Lynn Bell provides fresh insights into the good news that Jesus fully and radically valued women. And, Gerald Ford offers tips for recognizing and responding to spiritual abuse. Finally, Tim Krueger reviews Mark and Grace Driscoll’s controversial Real Marriage, and Liz Sykes reflects on Scot McKnight’s short and powerful e-book, Junia is Not Alone.

We hope this issue of Mutuality provides you with great encouragement, as well as insights into what is a confusing and difficult topic. We would love to hear from you—as always, we welcome any and all of your valuable feedback.

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